Master’s: Balancing work and studies

My name is Natasha and I am currently undertaking MA History – Medieval and Renaissance pathway at QMUL; I also took my BA in Medieval History at QMUL. Additionally, I work part-time for Careers & Enterprise as an Employer Engagement Assistant. Below are my thoughts on working and studying part-time.

Balancing work & studies

After some deliberating, I decided to study for my Master’s degree part-time. I knew that I had to find a way to support myself financially, particularly if I wanted to stay living in London; but I knew that studying full-time and working part-time wasn’t the best idea. I did not see any point in rushing through my studies and not giving it my all as working would inevitably be an obstacle – and even now, balancing work and studies is difficult. It is very important to plan your time wisely: make sure that on the days that you aren’t working, you have a study plan for what you want – and need – to achieve on those days when you are focusing solely on your Master’s. Sometimes this isn’t easy, particularly if you cannot find the motivation, or you have a day where you turn up no results – but persevere and take the time to re-charge your batteries, it is certainly easy to over-do things.

Challenges

Which leads me nicely to the challenges. Trust me when I tell you that your work/life balance will take a real dip. When I am not working, I use my ‘free’ time to study, and this means that I find it hard to stay in contact and socialise with friends and family. This really is something to be aware of as you, as well as them, will feel isolated. But, by planning your time effectively, it is entirely possible to give yourself a few hours off to let your hair down – and this is essential, particularly for your own well-being.

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Student story: Work experience in the heritage sector

jessJess Weeks, 3rd year History student

Every professional I have ever spoken to in the museum and heritage sector has told me experience is key. Unfortunately, it took me until my third year to understand how serious they were and how many resources were available to me at Queen Mary. One day I finally went to the careers office as I was struggling with making the decision between applying for an MA or just going straight into the world of work. They very clearly told me that work experience should be my top priority during my studies; my CV was limited and needed more to it, and the work experience would highlight the different fields and different jobs available within the sector.

I started looking at all the different companies and museums in the sector, paying particular attention to the Historic Royal Palaces because I love the Tower of London and Hampton Court. I noticed on their website they recruited volunteers and had apprenticeship and internship opportunities. Although none of these opportunities were advertised at the time I wanted to make a start and therefore I emailed all the people listed on the ‘contact us’ page because I was taught that there’s no harm in trying. I received a reply pretty quickly saying that there weren’t any opportunities. However, after a few weeks I received an email asking whether I would like to come in for an interview for the Learning and Engagement team of volunteers.

The interview was not what I had expected at all. It was much more informal and was primarily the team discussing their individual roles, what is expected of us as volunteers and what events we will be assisting with. We had to introduce the person sitting next to us and that was pretty much our talking done! We were then asked to select which palace was our preferred choice of work, I chose Kensington Palace and the Tower of London, and then that was it- we were officially HRP volunteers.

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